Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The best and the brightest … again

Most people who use the term "the best and the brightest" do not realize that it was originally meant ironically. It was the title of a book by David Halberstam about the technocratic, managerial class in government leadership whose undoubted intelligence shaped the disaster in Vietnam. They were in a sense too smart for the job they were lumbered with: overly self-confident, hung up on abstractions that left them unable to see the reality on the ground, subverting themselves through confirmation bias that made them absorb facts that fitted with their world view while ignoring those that called it into question.

I was put in mind of that episode while reading "America's Ruling Class — And the Perils of Revolution," by Angelo M. Codevilla, in The American Spectator. The essay (link here) has been getting quite a bit of buzz lately, so that while I had paid it no attention at first I finally decided to check it out.


The title sums it up. Codevilla argues that what began as a trendus interrruptus going back at least as far as Woodrow Wilson has hardened into a permanent reality: a ruling class that lives in its own dimension, not only detached from the lives of other Americans but contemptuous of the people they are supposedly serving.

You have undoubtedly read similar arguments, and perhaps had similar thoughts, but Codevilla has done a cracking job of summing up the situation. He takes many seemingly disparate strands of information and knits them together smartly. And the tone is just right: urgent but not hysterical.

I recommend reading the piece if you haven't already. It's long, though anything but tedious, and not to be skimmed. Give yourself time to absorb it.


In describing the present severe disconnect between what he calls the ruling class and the country class (the latter meaning those who still identify with the United States rather than their own clique), Codevilla doesn't pay enough attention to demographics. The ruling class's weapon of choice is population replacement — immigration, both legal and illegal, of people without American roots or traditions, whose preoccupation is purely economic benefit. The more intelligent and skilled among them will dilute the job market for the indigenous population; the larger number of alien unskilled can be counted on, once legalized, to vote for their masters to keep the dole money rolling in.

Codevilla acknowledges that, although this house divided cannot stand, he has few prescriptions about how the tables can be turned in a mass movement. But he does point out that it won't do just to become a mirror image of the present ruling class, operating from the same mentality and with the same extra-legal tactics. Principles and integrity no longer matter to the ruling class, but they should still matter to the rest of us.



Ray Sawhill said...

Excellent summary and reaction, tks.

Rick Darby said...

Hello, Ray! Long time. I hope you and P. are well.